Do race favourites and place betting go together? The answer is YES and NO and MAYBE.

On the “yes” side there’s the prospect of a 60 to 70 per cent strike rate, on the “no” side there’s the prospect of tiny returns and on the “maybe” side of things there’s the prospect of cherry picking to bet only the favourites likely to offer some value.

Place betting, looked at positively, helps you to look at long term rather than short term gains. If you’re an average punter and you put $20 on for the PLACE, you are automatically switching yourself to a new level of punting and thinking.

You are alleviating the stress of trying to find an instant “big return” and you are tending to look more at the long term result of your betting endeavours.

If you care to jot this down in a notebook, it will repay you again and again: BET PLACE, THINK LONG TERM, WIN LONG TERM.

The punter who bets for a place is a far more relaxed punter than the bloke who shells out the readies on “the nose”. He’s naturally anxious. He stands to win more but he’s only got one chance. A nose can lose him his money.

The place bettor doesn’t mind getting knocked off in a photo provided his horse is in the top three in the results line. He smiles as he picks up the return from his bet 4/5 ($1.80) and knows that basically it was never in doubt. He had three chances and one of them came up.

My colleague, The Optimist, likes to tell the story of his pal Mike, a confirmed place bettor. Place betting apparently is Mike’s method of coping with the big threat of getting caught; that is, going broke.

Mike bets in $1,000 units. His selections rarely miss the mark.  The Optimist explains: “Mike started with $50 place units; this was back in 1987. By early 1991 he had a full-time teaching job but he simply supplemented his wage with his place betting. Still doing it, as far as I know.

“Eric is another friend; hasn’t been to the races for 30 years, bets from his local club or from home, just for the place, and says he does it because he can win at it and he can win while being relaxed.”

Eric works on five basic figures to make his money:

  • 5 from 10 means $2.30
  • 6 from 10 means $1.90
  • 7 from 10 means $1.60
  • 8 from 10 means $1.40
  • 9 from 10 means $1.30 or $1.20

This means he has to get five place getters at $2.30 for 15 per cent profit. Or six at $1.90 (14 per cent), or seven at $1.60 (12 per cent), or eight at $1.40 and so on. The figures are clear cut.

The least profit he can squeeze out is nine from 10 at $1.20; that’s 8 per cent but nine at $1.30 gives him 17 per cent. The Optimist tells me: “Eric assumes four and a half collects at $1.30 and the same at $1.20. For ease, nine from 10 at $1.25 means 12.5 per cent profit.

“All over, then, he’s looking for a return of 12 to 15 per cent on his series of 10 bets. He goes into it very thoroughly; totally aware of the chances he places on each selection.

“It takes patience and he never worries about leaving a race alone if there isn’t a sound bet that he likes. I guess this is the main advantage of place betting. If you are mentally adapted to it and can forget the idea of securing a quarter of the odds, then a new world opens up for you.”

Why not aim for 12 per cent on turnover for the first year? Bet $50 a time on a $1,000 bank. Say you have an average of two bets a week. That’s $100 a week, $5,000 a year, say. Turnover profit will be around $600, and that’s a nice earner. As you win, increase your stake.

So where do the favourites come into the equation? Easy. They’re the horses on which you focus. You are not going to back them all. You are going to pick and choose.

Maybe you can go for six placers from 10 at $1.90? You might be able to close to it.

Whatever you choose, keep to races of eight or more to ensure three divvies. Keep to field sizes that are not too big. A good cut off point is a maximum field of 12 or 13.

Don’t bet unless you really are confident that a horse will win or run second or third. Concentrate your mind on those favourites. If it doesn’t measure up, move to the second favourite. Examine the form thoroughly. Keep records of stables that perform, jockeys that do the business for you.

Keep alert for those tracks where you get it right most of the time and those tracks where you seem to lose too much.

By Jon Hudson